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Grand Prix Minneapolis
Day 2 Coverage

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  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff




    • Day 1 Grinder Winning Decklists
      by Marc Calderaro

    So we didn't want to post these lists yesterday, so we wouldn't take away the competitors' edge. But today, if you've made Day Two already, your list is fair game, folks. Here are all the players who earned three byes at this Grand Prix the night before the event started.








    Kensuke Fukuchi (Wolf Run Ramp)
    Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 (Grinder Winner)


    And yes, just for funsies, there was one Sealed Grinder. Please do not net-deck this an bring it to your next FNM. It will not win.


    • Round 10 Feature Match
      Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Brandon Nelson
      by Marc Calderaro

    Brandon Nelson has had to work hard as a Magician. Though so does everyone else, Brandon has an extra burden because he came into his prime just as another particular Magic player did as well. Perhaps you've heard of him; his name's Brad Nelson. Opposite in appearance and demeanor, Brandon Nelson has been quietly posting solid results near the top of the Grand Prix standings and finished fourth at Nationals last year. His RG Aggro deck sporting the shiny new Bonfire of the Damned was one of the four undefeated lists coming into the second day.

    One of the other lists was Josh Utter-Leyton's UW Delver. Joshua Utter-Leyton is a three-time Pro Tour Top-8er, a three-time Grand Prix Top-8er, as well as a US National Champion. This man has cred coming out the wazoo and he didn't even have some other Magic player earning posting results with a name like Boshua Butter-Bayton or anything. Even if he did, his nickname (and Twitter handle) Wrapter, gave him a clear out in case he ran into any Boshuas in his travels. Perhaps Brandon Nelson should consider a cool nickname.

    Josh Utter-Leyton

    Game 1

    Utter-Leyton went down to six cards, then went down to 16 life when he cast Dismember on Brandon Nelson's first-turn Llanowar Elves. Nelson barely blinked and used his next turn to refuel with an Avacyn's Pilgrim and a Birds of Paradise. Utter-Leyton developed his board with the two main creatures of his deck, a Delver of Secrets and a Geist of Saint Traft, but the mana birds allowed Nelson to hard-cast a Bonfire of the Damned for two and wipe them away before any damage was done.

    Nelson followed with a Sword of War and Peace, equipping it to Pilgrim and getting right past two new Spirit tokens (made via Lingering Souls) to make the scores 9-22. Sword of War and Peace is capable of some really silly life-swings like that, especially when the other creatures available to block are unable to do so.

    Nelson considered for a while between the Strangleroot Geist and Huntmaster of the Fells in his hand before settling on the Geist. The hasty green beater joined the Pilgrim in combat. Utter-Leyton cast Snapcaster Mage and put it in front of the Geist. Then, the undercosted flash-maker allowed Utter-Leyton to reuse the Dismember to take out the Pilgrim. Though the exchange seemed extremely efficient, as the Strangleroot Geist returned from the graveyard, and it picked up the Sword of War and Peace, it was clear Utter-Leyton was not yet out of the woods.

    Nelson failed to equip the Sword to a Birds of Paradise as a Gut Shot took it out. Nelson knew with the mana Utter-Leyton had up, a second Snapcaster Mage was waiting to cast the Gut Shot again. It did just than mid-combat when it came down to block the Geist again. But Utter-Leyton had sunk to 1. After a post-combat Huntmaster of the Fells, the score was 1-20.

    Though a control deck is certainly capable of winning from that point difference, not when the boards looked like they did now. And not when the vast majority of your blockers are white, and there's a repeatable pro-white-granting equipment on the field.

    Brandon Nelson 1 – 0 Josh Utter-Leyton

    Game 2

    Utter-Leyton started out the second game quickly. His turn-one Delver of Secrets went turn-two Insectile Aberration and his Gut Shot removed a Llanowar Elves, then returned to kill the follow-up Birds of Paradise with a Snapcaster Mage. Utter-Leyton quickly took Nelson to the score of 5-16.

    Though Nelson tried to stabilize with a Huntmaster of the Fells, gaining two life and making a Wolf token, Utter-Leyton flashed the perfect counter – two Vapor Snags. The Wolf and the Master disappeared, the two extra life evaporated, and as the creatures rumbled into the red zone, so did Nelson's remaining life total.

    Brandon Nelson 1 – 1 Josh Utter-Leyton

    Brandon Nelson

    Game 3

    Nelson didn't have a turn-one accelerator, but had kept his opening seven anyway. This was a bit curious, but when Utter-Leyton cast a Gitaxian Probe, all the secrets were revealed. Nelson was holding two Huntmaster of the Fells, a Sword of War and Peace, an Incinerate, and a Green Sun's Zenith. The Zenith fetched out a Birds of Paradise on the next turn, and the Incinerate burned a Snapcaster Mage to death. (The Mage had been used to cycle with the Gitaxian Probe on the previous turn.)

    Utter-Leyton presented a big question mark for Nelson to answer in the form of a Geist of Saint Traft, and Nelson responded with the exclamation point Huntmaster of the Fells (#1). The scores had been relatively untouched so far, it was 18-22 in Nelson's favor, but that was soon to change. Utter-Leyton cast Vapor Snag on the Wolf token then offered the two multicolored creatures to trade. Nelson accepted and the scores became 18-19 after Angel-bashings and Huntmaster #2 entering the field on Nelson's next turn.

    Nelson had only two land, but his two mana-making creatures were working overtime. Nelson now had two more Green Sun's Zeniths in his hand alongside the Sword and a Wolfir Avenger, but he let out an audible sigh when Utter-Leyton cast another Geist of Saint Traft followed closely by a Delver of Secrets, which flipped like clockwork the following turn thanks to a Ponder. That is certainly sigh-worthy. Nelson laid the land he drew and cast a Zenith for four, finding another Huntmaster (and with it, another token and another two life).

    A couple Spirits and the Insect hit Nelson back down to 14 (16-14 in Utter-Leyton's favor), and the back end of Lingering Souls made another two Spirits, joining Geist of Saint Traft in the "Utter-Leyton's creatures that were untapped" category.

    Nelson had some very hard decisions facing him. Did he flip both Huntmasters? The three untapped mana for Utter-Leyton could be a problem. Was Utter-Leyton bluffing? He had the Wolfir Avenger to cast on Utter-Leyton's turn. So should he bluff that he's taking a risk at all? Nelson held his breath and said, "Pass", after attaching with two Wolves, and Utter-Leyton cast a Snapcaster Mage and flashed back a Vapor Snag to make a Wolf disappear forever. Nelson slumped in his chair a bit. The score was 12-13.

    Four Spirits, Mage, Insectile Aberration and Geist of Saint Traft squared off against two Huntmaster of the Fells a Birds of Paradise and an Avacyn's Pilgrim. The battle seemed fairly even, but Utter-Leyton did his best to tilt it with an Honor of the Pure.

    Nelson counted his blockers and settled that he was all right. He had the Wolfir Avenger for the surprise. But Utter-Leyton had another surprise of his own. With his patented stoicism, he calmly laid a Vapor Snag returning the only flying blocker Nelson had, the Birds of Paradise. With eight power, just in flyers, the life loss from the blue instant was enough to topple over Brandon Nelson's perfect record.

    Josh Utter-Leyton 2 – 1 Brandon Nelson

    As the two were packing up, Utter-Leyton asked, "Did you have the Avenger?"

    "Yeah," Nelson replied.

    Though he didn't win, it looks like he ran a pretty convincing bluff.

    • Round 11 Feature Match
      Gerry Thompson vs. Chris Schafer
      by Josh Bennett

    Co-Captain of Team SCG Blue Gerry Thompson has managed to shake off a disappointing Pro Tour performance and racked up nine wins so far this weekend playing Blue-White Delver. This round he faces amateur Chris Schafer, a Washington player in town for a wedding who 9-0'd Day 1 with a Black-Red Zombies deck handed to him by a friend.

    Game 1

    Schafer led with swamp and Diregraf Ghoul. Thompson played island and Delver, but that fell to Go for the Throat and Schafer hit for two. Thompson Pondered and kept the cards, then paid two for Gitaxian Probe. Schafer laid out his hand: Dragonskull Summit, Woodland Cemetery, Gloom Surgeon and Geralf's Messenger. Thompson Pondered again and passed.

    Schafer hit for another two and played Geralf's Messenger. The Glacial Fortress Thompson had dug himself to allowed a Geist of Saint Traft, but he took another five from Schafer's attackers. Schafer added a pair of Gloom Surgeons to the board and passed.

    Thompson's back was against the wall played a fourth land and hit with his Geist. The Gloom Surgeons doubled up on it, and unsurprisingly Restoration Angel made the save. Schafer untapped and thought for a moment before attacking with his taem. Thompson blocked the Ghoul and Messenger, falling to one after the Messenger returned to play, and a Phyrexian Metamorph copied the Messenger to take the game.

    Schafer 1 - Thompson 0

    Chris Schafer

    Game 2

    Schafer mulliganed to six, and they were off. Thompson started out with island and Glacial Fortress but no spell. Schafer meanwhile had no one-drops to go with his Blackcleave Cliffs, and a tapped Woodland Cemetery delayed him further. Thompson broke the silence with a Ponder and Ratchet Bomb.

    Schafer tried Geralf's Messenger, but Thompson was ready with a double whammy of Phantasmal Image and Celestial Purge. Schafer had the Go for the Throat to set things back to parity, both players forgetting that despite there being no creatures in play, the Image could still undying as a 0/0 with +1/+1.

    It hardly mattered. Thompson had plenty of gas in the tank. He Snapcastered a Ponder, then played Moorland Haunt and Delver of Secrets. Schafer tried to get back into it with Manic Vandal on Ratchet Bomb and another Geralf's Messenger, but Thompson had Snapcaster to reuse his Celestial Purge, and then a Restoration Angel to get even more mileage out of Snapcaster. Frost Titan came down soon enough, and that was that.

    Schafer 1 - Thompson 1

    Gerry Thompson

    Game 3

    Again Schafer was forced down to six cards. This time he had Diregraf Ghoul to go with his Blackcleave Cliffs. Thompson played island and passed. Schafer hit for two and added Cavern of Souls and Crypt Creeper to his board. Thompson came back with Ratchet Bomb and a Gut Shot on the Creeper. Schafer hit for two and played a tapped Dragonskull Summit.

    Thompson ticked his bomb up to one, then untapped and Pondered. He didn't like what he saw so he shuffled them away. He played Moorland Haunt and passed. When Schafer attacked he blew up his Bomb to get rid of the Ghoul. Schafer replaced it and passed. Thompson Snapcastered his Ponder, shuffled, and finally found a plains.

    Schafer drew his fourth land, and used it to summon Falkenrath Aristocrat. He swung in with it, but left his Diregraf Ghoul at home. Thompson pounced, playing and equipping Sword of Feast and Famine, and swinging in. He stole a Liliana of the Veil, then used his extra mana to Ponder, Phantasmal Image the Aristocrat, and Snapcaster a Gut Shot on it, forcing the sacrifice of Diregraf Ghoul. He was down to just eight life.

    Schafer was unable to deal with the Image, and so gamely copied his Aristocrat with Phyrexian Metamorph and attacked with both. Thompson blocked and sacrified Snapcaster to keep the Image around. He untapped at four. His Sworded Snapcaster stole Schafer's last card, a Crypt Creeper, and a Frost Titan came down to keep the Aristocrat on lockdown. Schafer looked at his next card, then extended the hand.

    Gerry Thompson defeats Chris Schafer 2-1

    • Round 12 Feature Match
      Brad Nelson vs. Rickard Hedlund
      by Marc Calderaro

    I'm pretty tired of writing Brad Nelson introductions at this point, so I'm just going to assume you've heard of the guy and move on. Nelson's deck was a throwback Mono-Blue Grand Architect deck. As Nelson said, "It has one job, and it does it well. This tournament can't seem to deal with a Wurmcoil Engine, so I brought them." His opponent this round was Rickard Hedlund, a Sweden native who's been living in Winnipeg for the last ten years. Though he's won States three years in a row, his biggest accomplishment is becoming a new father about a year ago, and he has a second on the way. So congratulations Rickard and his wife for that!

    To decide who went first, Hedlund rolled two six-sided die and scored a two and one. Brad Nelson laughed at the low number and picked up the die, ready to go first. His jaw dropped when he rolled snake eyes.

    Hedlund went first.

    Game 1

    Hedlund proudly laid a Birds of Paradise. Nelson's first turn was spent revealing the rest of Hedlund's plan with a Gitaxian Probe. Nelson saw: Garruk Relentless, Galvanic Blast, Llanowar Elves, Mountain, Forest. The former Player of the Year had his Merfolk Looter eaten by the Galvanic Blast, then saw the rest of the known hand drop to the field. A second Probe revealed that Hedlund had only drawn land and a second Elves.

    Garruk-fueled Wolves and Hedlund-fueled Elves attacked Nelson down to 16. Nelson dropped himself to 14 on his next turn when he cast a Grand Architect, then tapped him to help make a Phyrexian Metamorph copying the Architect. Brad had thought the coast was clear, but the one draw step he'd missed had yielded the second Galvanic Blast. And a combination of tussling with Garruk and the one-mana instant killed the Metamorph. Nelson spent his next turn casting two Phantasmal Images, each copying the Grand Architect. Man that Architect is a trend setter; everyone wants to copy him. This extra mana led to a Spellskite and a Batterskull.

    In the meantime, Hedlund had drawn a second Garruk. And since the first had turned into a dark version of himself, Garruk, the Veil-Cursed he used his ability to kill himself and find a Hellrider. He casted and attacked, dropping Nelson dangerously close to dead, but not dead.

    "You must have something good in your hand." Nelson said about Hedlund killing his own Garruk. "If you have the second Hellrider, I'm dead."

    Brad Nelson

    "No, no. I'm not slow-rolling you," Hedlund assured his opponent. In truth, the Swede has miscalculated with Hellrider. He thought Nelson was dead, but now had to play it off as if it was his plan the whole time. He did it rather smoothly if you ask me. I had no idea until I talked to him after the match.

    Hedlund did have to sit and think after recasting Garruk Relentless and killing the first Phantasmal Image, but he eventually just passed back to Nelson. Nelson brought the scores to 12-20 when he attacked with his Lifelinking Germ, then he used his colorless mana on a Wurmcoil Engine. Though Hedlund used his turn to kill the other Image and cast a Huntmaster of the Fells, he was at a bit of an impasse when it came to attacking. The turn went back to Nelson.

    Nelson untapped, drew, cast Ponder, look at his cards, resolved the Ponder, then he tapped some land. Phyrexian Metamorph hit the board and Nelson announced, "Copying Wurmcoil Engine."

    Hedlund conceded. Beating one Engine was hard enough; two was right out.

    Brad Nelson 1 – 0 Rickard Hedlund

    While the combatants were sideboarding, Hedlund looked a his cards and said, "You've probably play against more Red-Green Aggro deck than I've played against Mono-Blue Architect decks."

    "That was the plan." Nelson smiled.

    Game 2

    Again Nelson's first turn was spent with a Gitaxian Probe. "We have a no-lander here!" Nelson announced. Hedlund's hand was good, but was sorely lacking in mana department. There was a Llanowar Elves and a Copperline Gorge on the field, and as he splayed his hand on the table it revealed two Strangleroot Geist, Wolfir Avenger, Sword War and Peace and a Huntmaster of the Fells.

    As Hedlund dropped a Green Sun's Zenith for one the next turn, netting a Birds of Paradise, Nelson exclaimed, "Nice pull." His tone was more exaggerated the next turn when a land came off the top and Hedlund ran out his Huntmaster of the Fells. "Really?!" Nelson said.

    "You just have to practice, Brad." Hedlund retorted.

    "That's all I do. Practice Magic." Nelson frowned.

    He frowned again the next turn when the 2/2 Wolf token picked up the Sword of War and Peace and took him to 11. It was 11-25 and the Huntmaster was off the table, but Brad knew there were still the two Strangleroot Geists and the Wolfir Avenger sitting in his hand. He sat and peered at the Birds of Paradise holding the giant Sword, ready to strike him down rather quickly. Nelson was finally able to keep a Grand Architect and a Spellskite on the field until his untap step.

    Nelson cast a main-phase Snapcaster Mage and re-cast a Ponder. He saw Phyrexian Metamorph, Vapor Snag and Grand Architect. He sat for a long time with his hand. He had one Island untapped and four colorless available thanks to the Architect. He eventually settled and cast a Metamorph copying his Architect. Was it enough? After Hedlund's next attack it was 7-30 (thanks War and Peace), and the number of Huntmaster of the Fells just kept on coming.

    Rickard Hedlund

    "The top of your deck is so nice." Nelson said.

    "Practice, Brad."

    Hedlund cast a second Sword and equipped it to the Birds of Paradise to make a 4/5 Flying that dealt thousands of damage while gaining thousands of life. However, it just lost Hedlund one life as it went back into his hand with a Vapor Snag. Nelson spent the bulk of his next turn counting and recounting. He had four Grand Architects in play, and all his creatures were getting big. He attacked with a Snapcaster Mage and two Architects, making the totals 7-11. All that life gain had finally been negated. Hedlund would have to start blocking if he didn't find a way to get the Swords to connect with Brad's head soon.

    With an empty hand, Nelson drew a Ponder with his draw step. "That's a saucy one," he said as he cast it. It was a saucy one.

    He picked up Phantasmal Image, Ratchet Bomb and Spellskite. "This is going to take a couple minutes." Brad started moving all the creatures around on the board while holding the three cards tightly. He eventually settled on Image, Ratchet Bomb, then Spellskite. "I figured it out."

    He cast the Image and copied Huntmaster of the Fells (gaining two life and Wolf token) and attacked with his whole board – Spellskite, Snapcaster Mage, and four Grand Architects (two of which were Phyrexian Metamorph). Strangleroot Geist took on Mage, two wolves and a Llanowar Elves blocked three Architects and after blockers, Nelson turned his Spellskite blue and that along with one unblocked Architect made the life totals 9-3. Nelson confidently passed the turn back and crossed his arms across his chest.

    "What'd you draw? I can't think of card because Hellrider doesn't even do it." Nelson sat with his arms crossed. He eventually uncrossed them to shake Hedlund's extended hand. Brad Nelson moves to 10-2 and keeps his Top-8 hopes alive.

    Brad Nelson 2 – 0 Rickard Hedlund

    • Deck Tech
      Blue-Red Delver with Christian Calcano
      by Marc Calderaro

    I was the ultimate hipster when it comes to this deck. I liked it back before it was 9-0. Hell, I liked it before it was 7-0 when I did this deck tech interview. And you know what, I looked at this list on Saturday morning, before the tournament got underway, and even then I thought this deck was well-positioned and was awesome and stuff. Yeah, I was ahead of the curve with Christian Calcano's deck. Calcano brought his own Blue-Red Delver deck which he made on Thursday. And though certainly people have tried a build like this before, and you may be thinking to yourself, "Hey, I thought of that!" there are two aspects that make Calcano's build different and stand out: 1) The transformational sideboard, a full 14 unique cards, allows the already un-discoverable decklist even more of a surprise element, and 2) You didn't bring it to a Grand Prix and go 9-0 on the first day. Too bad, so sad.

    So now, as Calcano sits 9-0, I feel a bit of that hipster pride in finding something before it was cool. But ultimately, my pride is pointless, because the real owner of this deck, the real source of pride for that 9-0, is Calcano himself. And he's earned that pride. The New York native had a run of great finishes in the late 2010 season well into 2011. He finished Top 16 at Worlds 2010, had some great runs in the Star City Games Open Series, and piloted that sweet UB Vampires deck from Pro Tour Paris. But in the last nine Grand Prix events, he's made Day Two seven times, and finished in the money a grand total of zero times.

    It's been hard on Christian for sure, but with each passing round yesterday, as his little pet deck chalked up more and more ticks in the win column, the smile on his face grew and grew. After each round ended, he'd find me, and just point to his deck and smirk. He was able to do that through the entire day.

    "People said to me, 'Don't play this pile!' and 'Come on, you need to play a real deck; you need to win!'" I sat and listened to Calcano talk through his smile. "But I was like, 'No way. This deck is too fun.'" And though I cannot allow you to take this bit of advice without a big grain of salt [http://moneyandblogging.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/grain-of-salt.jpg], sometimes, even at tournaments, the deck that is more fun to play, will help you play better.

    Enough preamble. Let's get to the deck already.

    Calcano admits the deck is pretty hard to play. "It's just very unforgiving. When to drop which lands; when to Thought Scour or Snapcaster Mage," can be the difference between winning and losing. This is sort of thing is what happens when you add Bonfire of the Damned, or really any miracle, to a list like this. But it has all the advantages of the Delver lists and any UR lists. You get to play Desolate Lighthouse and all the red removal you can jam it, but you also get the Runechanter's Pike that becomes so dangerous on any of the deck's creatures (especially Invisible Stalker). Calcano said he doesn't miss the White at all, except for one, single card. Geist of Saint Traft.

    When it comes to this deck's matchup versus the traditional UW Delver, Calcano said it's all about that Hexproof Angel-maker. "If they are able to drop it, the game gets a lot tougher." He continued that Geist of Saint Traft is the only reason for the second Mana Leak in the sideboard. A concession that a three-mana, six-power, un-killable guy can, in fact, change games.

    Against the rest of the field, Calcano thinks the deck is very well-positioned. His removal suite allows the deck to function with the speed and disruption of a UW Delver, possible better and faster, and the transformational sideboard lets him turn into the other role of a control deck without his opponent knowing what hit him. And though the singleton aspect might seem inconsistent, the deck has twelve draw spells, four Snapcaster Mages to re-play them, and two lands that help filter. With all that card search, finding the single card you need, when you need it, is easier than you'd think.

    Christian Calcano

    "Right now, I wouldn't change anything in this 75. Every card has given me value." The Grim Lavamancer might look weird, but it has dealt with more than one Strangleroot Geist quite easily. The Crush might look out-of-place, but it can easily win the Sword war in Aggro match-ups. But "the best advice for the deck came from my friend Ricardo from Costa Rica. He took a look at the list and said, 'Frost Titan.' That thing has been a monster all day." It seems that people just aren't prepared to take out that beast when all they expected are 1/1s and a couple 3/3s.

    Though surely with more than a day's tinkering Calcano and others will refine the numbers a bit more (Galvanic Blast/Pillar of Flame/Incinerate numbers, etc.), the Calcano's UR Delver sits at a perfect confluence among the decks in this familiar, albeit refined, field. And is uniquely positioned to have a good game against all of them. I agree that it might be nice to jam in some more answers to Geist of Saint Traft, but what use is it for me to critique this deck further. Perhaps that's my new role as UR Delver hipster to become the contrarian now that the deck is cool, but I don't want to. The deck's way too fun. Watching it flashback a Thought Scour and miracle into a Bonfire of the Damned mid-combat is just too exciting for me to poo-poo just yet. Let's wait until it has an Affinity-like stranglehold on the field, then I'll start to talk about how I always thought it was bad. Until then, it really makes me smile.

    I wish Christian Calcano the best of luck in the coming day as he takes the best two colors in the world against the rest of this field. And perhaps this time, he'll fly home with a little something to show for it.

    • Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
      Musings about Standard with the Pros
      by Marc Calderaro

    So the Pros are tired and the old decks are good enough? Is that the lesson we're to learn from Day 1 of Grand Prix Minneapolis? Certainly some cards are great for sideboards but not for new decks? Yes, Restoration Angel is the next step in a Delver deck, and yes, Bonfire of the Damned gives any deck that additional reach to pull out games that are otherwise lost, and yes, creatures that start with "Wolfir" go well in RG Aggro. Sure Chapin and Sam Black are playing a 5-color control deck with Tamiyo, the Moon Sage as a centerpiece, but Chapin didn't make day two and Sam Black is a long shot. And sure, I got to see Venser the Sojourner ultimate in two separate matches around the top tables, but that was in Round 3. I wanted to know what the future was to hold, and why it wasn't here yet. I talked to a few Pros and names to get to the bottom of this. And just to talk about the state of Standard as a whole. The results were quite encouraging. Not only is Standard going to shift further, but it's already shifted a fair amount more than I was giving it credit for. It's nice to know Pros always have a good handle on things, and can ease me in times of crisis.

    Adrian Sullivan, Midwest mainstay, was pretty blunt about it. Which was refreshing, really. "Get your Tamiyos now. It's that simple." Sullivan, Sam Black and Brian Kibler sat with me and talked shopped and both the others agreed with Sullivan's statement. But they also seemed to hedge on just when such an investment would pay off. When I sat with Chapin he said of Tamiyo, "It's a Blue Gideon Jura.

    Sam Black

    And Blue could use a Gideon." I also talked with Gerry Thompson who mirrored this sentiment and our conversation shifted by talking about the increasing role of aggression in the meta-game and the shift away from the Titans. There are very few Tamiyo, the Moon Sages sitting at the top tables right now. As big, six-cost game-breaking creatures become less of the focus, the less a five-mana tapper becomes important. So there is a tension here between where we know we'll be, but how quick the meta-game will shift to get there.

    Much of the change from the Mike-Flores-style Keiga, the Tide Star tap-out creatures is a little Avacyn Restored gem that has already been tapped, Zealous Conscripts. Having your Titan stolen and used against you is rough stuff.

    "Because the format is so aggressive, Titans need to be able to stabilize when they hit, even through a Conscripts. Primeval Titan can do this with Glimmerpost; Grave Titan can do this with its creatures." He went on to say that Inferno Titan as the biggest loser since the adoption of Zealous Conscripts, and though Sun Titan + Phantasmal Image + Oblivion Ring can stabilize, the only playable deck right now that can do that is Esper Control and that doesn't fill its graveyard quickly enough to make that work.

    Chapin felt a bit differently and countered that Esper was positioned pretty well to break into the Big Four decks (RG Aggro, Wolf Run Ramp, UW Delver and Naya Pod, or a close Pod variant). "The deck has Thought Scour and Forbidden Alchemy, and just playing Magic will put the cards in the graveyard the deck needs." He continued that with the addition of Terminus, the deck really got all the help it needed.

    "Terminus is going to start showing up everywhere, even in powered formats... Any format with the ability to manipulate the top of the library could use a one-mana, instant Wrath of God." As talked more, we got into just how much better than Day of JudgmentTerminus could be. In formats that are all about value, whether through reanimating creatures or making them indestructible, Terminus can give you the answer for one mana. This idea is reflected in the general clamor for Terminus at the dealer tables that has been growing throughout the weekend. The rise of value-laden sweepers could also lower the role of six-cost monstrosities.

    Gerry Thompson

    Black and Kibler also talked about the diminished value of the Titans. "With things like Restoration Angel, there are now good flyers than can just avoid the Titans," Kibler remarked. He continued that Wolfir Silverheart just makes a bigger Titan and for less mana. I laughed. I had never thought that to obsolete the Titans at six, Wizards could just print a better creature at five. Both these Pro Tour Barcelona stand-out cards were appearing in more and more lists this weekend. The more people I talked to, the more people say that Restoration Angel is the next evolution of the Delver deck. Making a big-butted, instant-speed flyer that's immune to Pillar of Flame, Gut Shot and all non-miracle Bonfire of the Damned is pretty sweet. Kibler discussed this idea and added how the upper mana-cost slots are going to be shifting anyway.

    "It's only a matter of time before people realize that the Swords aren't good." Again, Black agreed with Kibler. Kibler believes they're just not good enough in anything other than Delver. Sullivan added in, "Now with Wolfir Avenger, [RG Aggro] has something to do at three mana too." Chapin, however, couldn't disagree more, saying that the amount of damage Sword of War and Peace can deal just can't be denied. Though I understand where Kibler is coming from, and that in decks like RG Aggro, sometimes the equipment just doesn't solve the problems the deck has, I'm inclined to go with Chapin on this one. It can swing games in your favor that you have no business winning. And though War and Peace might not be Sword of Fire and Ice, it's pretty darn close.

    So though the Titans' role is already diminishing in the format, everyone's excited for when they will rotate this fall. Everyone had different ideas and speculation but I think Adrian Sullivan summed it up the best: "Without Primeval Titan, we will know whether Mid-range Control is possible again." Black added that it might not be actually possible at all, but at least we'll know whether or not it is. This is important for Sullivan, who made himself known through mid-range control decks like the Ponza decks of old and the Takings-clause-named Eminent Domain.

    Adrian Sullivan

    "Just having the Titans in the format changes deckbuilding, just like the presence of counterspells changes things." Chapin, as usual, puts a good capstone on the discussion. Even if the cards aren't played at a given tournament, they are still likely alter what cards you are likely to put in your deck.

    As for the new decks? They just need some more time, the Pros all echo. Sam Black said, "I have a good Pod build that just copies Drogskol Captain over and over." He said that maybe with one day of Magic Online he would have felt comfortable playing it, but without it, it just wasn't going to beat the Standard decks. Sullivan agreed that it's hard to bring an unturned build into a deck full of machine guns. Thompson added that it's nice to have someone willing to take the plunge with you when trying a new deck at a Grand Prix. New decks will be showing up soon in droves. And what will be in said decks?

    "The number of Soulbound creatures that are going to show up will surprise people." Chapin remarked. "Nearheath Pilgrim, Stonewright, Lightning Mauler all already saw fringe play in block, but they will see more. People just don't know how to evaluate them yet." Deadeye Navigator has been showing up to play, and there's certainly room for the Silverblade Paladin in Humans lists.

    Along these lines of the rise of Soulbound, it's a good enough time to talk about how everyone, independently, talked about Torpor Orb. "It shuts off Soulbound, Titan triggers, Geralf's Messenger, everything," Thompson stated. Heck, it even makes Restoration Angel "just" a 3/4 Flash, flier for four mana. That sentence seemed silly to even write.

    There's tons of innovation going around standard right now. And the best part, is there's more to come. Which Pod variant will prove to be the best? Naya Pod seems the most dominant in generally, but there's a large number of RUG Pods here, and even a couple Zombie Pods. The Zombie Pods are the decks that do things like this: Cast Geralf's Messenger (drain 2). Sacrifice it to Birthing Pod, get a Phyrexian Metamorph and have it copy a Messenger (drain 4). Get a Vampire Aristocrat, sacrifice the Metamorph (drain 2), then when the Undying trigger allows it to come back, make it copy the Aristocrat and swing in the air (9 damage). That's really fun.

    And though the new decks aren't breaking out yet, Ryan Sabin made the second day with a Griselbrand Re-animator, Brad Nelson beat the tar out of everyone with a Grand Architect build, Lindsay Heming, judge extraordinaire has been using GWB control deck with Shrine of Loyal Legions and tons of white board sweepers, and Deadeye Navigator is a big part of the reason RUG Pod is doing as well as it is. I say let the Pros catch up on some sleep,so they can brew some more fun brews, while the rest of us innovate on our own, and pull a Christian Calcano. Come up with a fun deck made with some fun cards, and then go 12-0 with it.

    • Deck Tech
      "Spagnolo's Architect" with Brad Nelson
      by Josh Bennett

    You might have missed it, but as Pro Tour Avacyn Restored headed towards its dramatic conclusion, former Player of the Year Brad Nelson was having his best tournament in a long time. He finished 20th, and looked like he was playing the kind of magic that first brought him into the spotlight.

    "I hadn't felt that prepared for a tournament in a while," said Nelson. "We tested so much, I really felt like I knew the matchups inside and out." And even though he finished strong, he wanted more. "I feel like I should have Top 8'd." That's the kind of fire his fans had missed seeing.

    Returning from Barcelona, he had no time to test Standard before the Grand Prix. Enter Nick Spagnolo, who handed him a mono-blue Grand Architect list that had served Spagnolo well on Magic Online. "I dismissed it initially, but then a couple nights ago Drew Levin wanted to test it out, and everything we threw at it, it just kept winning. That's when I thought that it might be real. And the best part is, it's a blast to play."

    The centerpiece of the deck is the eponymous Grand Architect, and specifically its ability to power out Wurmcoil Engine.

    "The format is still really unexplored. So people are playing these very safe decks - Ramp, Red-Green Aggro, Naya Pod - and their testing is getting really inbred. None of their removal hits Architect, and Wurmcoil is great against them. Even if you don't have the Architect, Vapor Snag and Snapcaster buy you a lot of time."

    Brad Nelson

    When it's not dropping turn four Wurmcoil Engines, the deck frustrates opponents with its suite of eight clones. Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph often come down in multiples thanks to the mana boost from Grand Architect.

    "Something I've been saying about this deck is 'Anything you can do, I can do better.' The play an Inferno Titan? I'll copy it three times and kill them. A deck like Frites has no chance against this, because even if they execute their plan, I can just kill their legend."

    Nelson has been giggling his way through the weekend despite his two losses. It seems like every game he talks about is some kind of blowout. "One game I played a turn-two Merfolk Looter and my opponent just shrugged at it, but then it was hitting him for six after I played turn-three Architect and copied it four times. He died the next turn."

    "The control decks have a lot of problems with this, because they have to trade their removal for Wurmcoils and then the tokens, and I can just get them back with Buried Ruin. Also there are almost no counterspells out there. They just can't keep up."

    Of course, he's the first to admit that while it's well-positioned, it does have its shortcomings. "Its biggest problem is that it's a little loose against Delver. I think that's partly because it's not a fully refined list. It needs a better sideboard plan. Once I brought in my Hex Parasite and Trinket Mage just to go beatdown."


    Brad Nelson - "Spagnolo's Architect"
    Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012



    • Round 13 Feature Match
      Stephen Bishop vs. Rick Stout
      by Josh Bennett

    This round saw a clash of relative unknowns at 11-1. On one side, Rick Stout, a GP grinder who helps run Heads Up Game Lounge in Springfield Illinois. He's playing an unorthodox blue-white humans brew of his own design. Across from him sat Edmonton's Stephen Bishop, enjoying just his second Day 2. Bishop's deck is profoundly orthodox - Red-Green Ramp - but it has served him well.

    Game 1

    Bishop mulliganed once and they were off. He led with forest and watched as Stout Pondered off Seachrome Coast. Next came Rootbound Crag and Rampant Growht for a second Forest. Stout Pondered again, then played a second Coast and a Delver of Secrets. Four mana gave Bishop Thrun, the Last Troll.

    Stout revealed a third Ponder to flip into Insectile Aberration. He hit for three, then summoned Champion of the Parish and cast Gather the Townsfolk. Bishop played another Rampant Growth and Copperline Gorge, then passed back. Stout Pondered, then played out a second Champion and Elite Vanguard before atttacking with the rest of his creatures. Bishop blocked the now-5/5 Champion and regenerated, falling to twelve.

    Bishop calmly untapped and dropped Whipflare. Stout was saved from utter devastation by Mutagenic Growth for his Insectile Aberration. Bishop played a Glimmerpost to go up to 13 and passed. Stout hit with just the Aberration, then Snapcastered his Gather the Townsfolk, making his Champion a 7/7.

    Bishop had Primeval Titan, fetching Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run, but not enough mana leftover to regenerate Thrun. Stout untapped and thought for a moment, then turned all his creatures sideways. Bishop was faced with a tough choice. He eventually settled on throwing Thrun in the way of the big Champion, and eating Snapcaster with Primeval Titan, falling to five. Stout Snapcastered a Ponder, keeping the cards. He added Delver to the board.

    Bishop swung in with his Titan, getting two Glimmerposts and rising to eleven life, and put his mana into Kessig Wolf Run to leave Stout at eight life. He had Inkmoth Nexus back to block. Unfortunately for him, Stout turned over a Gut Shot, flipping his Delver of Secrets and ensuring a lethal attack.

    Rick Stout 1 - Stephen Bishop 0

    Stephen Bishop

    Game 2

    Bishop had a turn-two Sphere of the Suns in response to Champion of the Parish, then took three when Stout played Gather the Townsfolk. He had Slagstorm in hand, however, and swept the board clean. Stout played a second Champion and passed. Bishop fetched forest with Solemn Simulacrum. Stout had another Gather and swung for three. Bishop was quick to chump with Solemn Simulacrum.

    Bishop had another Slagstorm. Stout saved his 3/3 Champion with Mutagenic Growth. Bishop went for the Whipflare followup, but Stout had Snapcaster Mage, buffing the Champion to a 6/6 and flashing back Mutagenic Growth on itself to survive Whipflare. He hit for six, knocking Bishop to 17, his three Glimmerposts having given him six life.

    Cavern of Souls ensured Bishop's Primeval Titan would enter play, and it searched out Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run. Stout played Delver of Secrets and passed back. Bishop animated his Nexus and attacked with it and his Titan, getting the last Glimmerpost and a Copperline Gorge. He traded Titan for Champion and Snapcaster and dealt one poison, then played a replacement Titan.

    Stout revealed Ponder to flip his Delver, but realized the hopelessness of the situation, and scooped to ensure they had time for the final game.

    Rick Stout 1 - Stephen Bishop 1

    Rick Stout

    Game 3

    Both players mulliganed for the deciding game. They stayed at six. Stout had a turn-one Delver of Secrets, but it refused to flip on the second turn. He spent his two mana on Runechanter's Pike. Bishop had no accelerant to go with his two land, and soon went to eighteen from the unflipped Delver. Stout meanwhile could do nothing but equip his Pike.

    Bishop cleared the Delver off the board with Devil's play. Stout played out a replacement. Bishop cast Solemn Simulacrum and got a mountain, but Vapor Snag sent it home. Stout also had Mutagenic Growth waiting on top of his deck to flip his Delver. He equipped and hit for four. Bishop was down to fourteen. Bishop untapped and cast Whipflare, drawing out the Growth. He spent his las four mana replaying Solemn Simulacrum.

    Stout equipped and hit in the air, bringing Bishop down to nine life, then waited on his mana. Bishop flashed back Devil's Play for two on the Aberration, and Stout showed Snapcaster to save again with Mutagenic Growth. That was all by design for Bishop, who hit for two with his Simulacrum, then cleared the board with Slagstorm. Stout had yet another Delver of Secrets, but this met Pillar of Flame, and worse yet, Bishop had Primeval Titan, getting Kessig Wolf Run and Glimmerpost.

    A Vapor Snag saved Stout a turn's worth of pain, but the Titan just came down again, joined by Thrun. Stout played a Seachrome Coast and passed, and time was called on Bishop's turn. Snapcaster on Vapor Snag bought Stout one more turn, but he was unable to deal with Bishop's threats.

    Stephen Bishop defeats Rick Stout 2-1

    • Quick Question 3
      What deck should people absolutely NOT be playing in Standard?
      by Marc Calderaro
    Brad Nelson: "Boros. It tries to do all these very fair things and is vulnerable to all the popular removal."
    Owen Turtenwald: "Delver. I can't win with it."
    Gerry Thompson: "Red-Green Aggro. It's very mopey."
    David Ochoa: "Anything with counterspells. They're not well-positioned right now."
    Luis Scott-Vargas: "Green-Black Ramp. I think Grave Titan is terrible."
    Michael Jacob: "Red-Green Aggro. It's just a bad Pod deck."
    • Round 14 Feature Match
      William Cruse (RB Zombies) vs. Oliver Tiu (RG Aggro)
      by Marc Calderaro

    "I've been told you're better than me." William Cruse said as he sat down. Oliver Tiu certainly didn't disagree, but he didn't really say too much of anything in response either. Cruse continued to be the more talkative of the two, discussing how he's 1-5 in feature matches and had been 0-5 until he beat Conley Woods yesterday. He continued that he's 0-15 in Table 1 matches. "I really like statistics; especially negative ones about myself." Cruse smiled.

    Tiu kept his stone-face response. He retorted just enough to not be impolite, but not enough to comprehend any real emotion going on behind his face. It was a good stone-face for a fourteen-year-old. Oliver Tiu, hailing from Cambridge, Mass and has been playing competitively for the last couple years. Though he hasn't put up Julien Nuijten stats quite yet, with a win this and next round, he'll finish in the Top 8 of this here Grand Prix. He also was a finalist at 140-player TCG Player open in Cambridge back in February. Tiu said he thinks his RG Aggro deck is definitely the best deck in the format at the moment, though he's sure his worst match-up is from the Zombies deck that's currently across the table.

    The two shuffled up as Cruse continued to try to crack a smile out of Tiu. Tiu would let the smile crack, but then would retract it right back into his mouth.

    Game 1

    The first turn brought a Birds of Paradise out of Tiu. This play was getting to be a big mainstay of the weekend. He followed that up with a Green Sun's Zenith searching out a Strangleroot Geist. Tiu elected not to attack with the hasty beater, as Diregraf Ghoul was ready and waiting to crack right back. Though the 2/2 didn't get through to Tiu, Cruse still got some good value with the Zombie. When it swapped with the Geist on his attack step, he used a post-combat Arc Trail take out the two creatures of Tiu's leaving him board-less.

    Geralf's Messenger and Falkenrath Aristocrat on successive turns made the totals 14-9 on Cruse's attack step, but Tiu was matching tit for tat as his second Strangleroot Geist and a Phyrexian Metamorph (copying Cruse's Messenger) beat the totals back even at 9-9.

    Tiu saved himself from death with a Galvanic Blast on the Messenger, but the black creature still drained for two more life. The next turn, Tiu attacked with his Metamorph to make the total 6-3. On Cruse's attack step, Tiu cast Galvanic Blast on his own Metamorph to let it come back as a Falkenrath Aristocrat, but with a +1/+1 counter. It was a smart play to maximize his chances of reaching his untap step alive. However, it didn't matter. Though the attack didn't kill Tiu, Cruse showed he had the burn to back it up and Tiu scooped up his cards.

    William Cruse 1 – 0 Oliver Tiu

    Cruse continued to joke with Tiu while sideboarding and Tiu continued to kind-of respond. It was a fun interaction to watch.

    William Cruse

    Game 2

    Cruse had a Tragic Slip for Tiu's opening Llanowar Elves, a Brimstone Volley for the first half of Strangleroot Geist and an Arc Trail for the second. This left the turn-four board with just dueling artifacts – A Sword of War and Peace for Tiu and a Mortarpod for Cruse.

    Soon, Tiu's Galvanic Blast attacked Cruse's Falkenrath Aristocrat that came down, but Cruse sacrificed his Germ token to make the flyer indestructible. Tiu, on the offense, cast another Strangleroot Geist and equipped his Sword. When it hit Cruse to make the totals 6-14 in Tiu's favor, Cruse said, "This is not a promising race." He looked down despondently at his 4/1 Flyer that just wasn't good enough.

    Tiu continued with his style of barely responding and dropped a Hellrider, then turned his creatures sideways. He looked at his opponent.

    As Cruse scooped up his cards he said, "Well that was a thorough beating."

    William Cruse 1 – 1 Oliver Tiu

    Oliver Tiu

    Game 3

    Cruse was happy to be on the play for the first time in the match. He celebrated with Cavern of Souls (naming Zombies) and soon two Gravecrawlers came spewing forth. Tiu countered with a Strangleroot Geist, though Cruse had already cheered when Tiu didn't have a first-turn mana-accelerator. Green Sun's Zenith got a second Geist that did not attack, and Cruse was ahead 16-14 when he got the turn back. It was two 2/1s against two 2/1s, except one pair would turn into 3/2s when they died. The other pair didn't have legs.

    Cruse got his turn back ahead on life and untapped both his Gravecrawlers and his now-ready Diregraf Ghoul. Tiu's hand was three land and a Wolfir Silverheart. The Soulbound creature was two turns from being cast, however, as Tiu had only put three of his lands in play so far. Oh the pangs of not having a first-turn accelerator.

    While Tiu was surely ruminating about his pangs, Cruse was figuring out what should attack into the untapped Geist. He eventually decided that he was a zombies deck, and zombies want brains (or so Return of the Living Dead has taught us), and the best way to get brains was from your opponent's skull. So Cruse attacked with his whole team. After the Strangleroot Geist traded and returned, Cruse cast a post-combat Brimstone Volley to make the life totals 16-5.

    Tiu had another turn he had to live if he was going to get that +8/+8 from the Silverheart. But it was not to be. On Cruse's next attack, after blockers were declared, Cruse flashed the second Brimstone Volley and Tiu knew the jig was up.

    William Cruse 2 – 1 Oliver Tiu

    Though Tiu's Top-8 dreams had ended, with a win next round, he was still likely for Top 24. And Cruse, in addition to just needing one more win, increased his lifetime Feature Match record to 2-5.

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